Planning Underway for Hmong-Immersion Charter

Planning Underway for Hmong-Immersion Charter
Posted on 02/23/2024
The Appleton Area School District (AASD) Board of Education voted on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, to become the authorizer for a potential new charter school within the AASD. 

The Hmong American Immersion School (HAIS) and AASD can now apply through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for a funding grant. Last fall, the DPI announced that they had received $58 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support grants to charter schools. The DPI will award grants to applicants as early as June 2024. A grant from the DPI would include one year for planning and multi-year funding for implementation. The AASD would only be obligated to serve as the authorizer if the grant is awarded.

The vision for HAIS is to empower 4K-5th grade students to embrace their cultural identity through rigorous academic experiences, preparing them to be active contributors to their diverse community. HAIS would focus on equity-focused social and emotional learning through cultural integration, aiming to improve academic achievement and post-secondary enrollment for all students, particularly Hmong students, while fostering community success and readiness for career, college, and community engagement.

HAIS plans to open in the fall of 2025, pending the grant award.

"Immersion" means being completely involved in something. In schools, it often refers to teaching a foreign language using only that language. In the United States, there are two main ways of teaching the Hmong language: one focuses on becoming fluent in both Hmong and English, while the other teaches primarily in English with some Hmong language classes. 

The Hmong American Immersion School (HAIS) would be different by combining both language teaching methods. While most classes would be in English, the school would also offer daily Hmong language classes. These classes would aim to help students learn to speak, read, and write in Hmong while also learning about Hmong culture. HAIS will also focus on teaching students about social issues and emotional skills. HAIS wants students to understand and appreciate their Hmong heritage while also becoming strong in English.

The instructional model at HAIS aims to address the pressing need to preserve Hmong language and culture, especially among Hmong students who are losing their cultural identity due to assimilation into Western culture. HAIS recognizes the complexity of the Hmong community in the Fox Cities, where language barriers hinder interaction between different generations. By offering a curriculum centered on Hmong culture and language, HAIS seeks to bridge this gap and provide all students with an opportunity to learn about Hmong heritage and identity.

HAIS is designed to be responsive to the needs of our underserved and English Learner (EL) students, particularly Hmong students who face significant achievement gaps and are overrepresented among students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). By focusing on culture and language, HAIS aims to support the academic success of these students and promote diversity within the educational options available in the community. 

HAIS will be the first Hmong charter school in Appleton, expanding elementary options for our families. HAIS strives to create a supportive learning environment that fosters a sense of belonging and enhances the well-being of all students. Learn more about the HAIS vision and mission here.

Any student in the AASD would be able to apply to enroll in HAIS using the District’s lottery charter application. Students living outside the Appleton Area School District must apply for Open Enrollment through the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in addition to completing the charter application.

Stay tuned for further updates as we work towards realizing this vision for our students and community!